Airmen leap into rescue mode after head-on accident

  • Published
  • By Darrius Parker
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Two service members and an Air Force civilian acted selflessly and dove into danger to try and save two victims from a recent head-on vehicle crash in Chester Township.

At about 2:30 p.m. Oct. 16, Devin Jones and Scott Craycraft crashed into each other on State Route 380 south of New Burlington, leaving Jones’ vehicle leaning halfway over the highway’s guardrail.

Jacqueline Melcher, director of the 88th Civil Engineer Group’s Installation Management Division, and her husband, Tech. Sgt. Robert Melcher, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flightline production expediter at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, arrived soon after the crash and didn’t hesitate to jump out of their car to start attending to both victims.

“The accident literally just happened,” Jacqueline Melcher said. “Once we stopped, I told my husband that there was one person in each vehicle and that we needed to help. At that point, I went to help Mr. Craycraft as my husband went to help Mr. Jones.”

Maj. Dustin Honious, 445th Security Forces Squadron commander, arrived shortly after the Melchers and rushed to assist.

“When I arrived on the scene, I saw Tech. Sgt. Melcher on top of the guardrail yelling for Jones to wake up,” Honious said. “I jumped up next to him and we began banging on the windows and yelling to awaken him.”

Unable to wake Jones, they soon realized he was also pinned in his car with the lower half of his body stuck between the steering wheel and seat. To gain access to him, Robert Melcher and Honious had to break off the driver’s door.

“We were unable to get Jones out and couldn’t unbuckle his seat belt,” Honious said. “Due to this, we had to find a knife to cut it so that we could have access to him.”  

Moments later, Robert Melcher and Honious started to smell smoke and gasoline as it started to flow out of the fuel tank and onto the road. At this point, they knew they had to get Jones out quickly before the car caught fire.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.

“We knew no matter what, we had to get him out as the flames crept up the windshield and smoke filled the inside of the cabin,” Honious said. “While I held his neck and head in support, Tech. Sgt. Melcher was able to manipulate his legs from under the wheel and we began to evac while telling others to discharge a nearby fire extinguisher.”

‘I acted as the incident commander’

Once Jones was escorted away from the flames of his own vehicle and being tended to by others who stopped to help, Robert Melcher and Honious turned their attention to Craycraft. 

During the time Robert Melcher and Honious worked to extract Jones, Jacqueline Melcher was able to contact Craycraft’s wife. She retrieved his crucial medical information to pass along to first responders when they arrived.

“Although Mr. Craycraft was in pain, I was able to console him, to keep him calm and assure him that he was going to be OK,” Jacqueline Melcher said.

By also breaking the driver’s door back, Robert Melcher and Honious gained better access to Craycraft.  

“He was unable to move on his own accord, but was fully conscious,” Honious said. “Having seen how quickly the fire was able to start and spread from Jones’ car, we thought it was best to move Craycraft immediately.”

As Robert Melcher and Honious prepared to move him, the fire started again.

“I knew it was critical to get Mr. Craycraft out as quickly and safely as possibly,” Robert Melcher said. “With the fire growing, we all pulled him out and moved him to a safe place to provide further medical assistance.”

At that time, the Chester Township Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services arrived and started tending to both victims.

“I ran and acted as the incident commander,” Jacqueline Melcher said. “I was directing them to both Jones and Craycraft, informing them of injuries, what happened during the accident, and of any crucial medical information they needed to know in case medicine was administered.”

Paramedics transported both victims to separate hospitals. Craycraft is now recovering, but Jones succumbed to his injuries and passed away while at the hospital.

Jones’ memorial service was held Oct. 26. The Melchers and Honious all made it a priority to be there.

“We knew nothing about Devin and wanted to attend the wake to pay our respects to him and his family,” Jacqueline Melcher said. “We were able to talk with his family and get to know about the kindhearted and friendly gentleman he was.”

Service before self

Jacqueline Melcher says she was proud to be alongside her husband and Honious during the incident and be part of an Air Force that has others who would do the same. None of them thought twice about leaping into danger to help, which embodies the core value of “service before self,” she added.

She also quoted Winston Churchill and said she hopes others will consider it while in a situation they are truly needed:

“To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for that which would be his finest hour.”